After a strong defensive showing in week one, the Los Angeles Rams flexed their muscles again on the Arizona Cardinals. Rams fans have high expectations for their team after an active off-season and saw their new additions on display in their home opener. Nearly everything went the Rams way in a 34-0 victory Sunday afternoon, but both the secondary and return man Jojo Natson stood out in the blowout win.
Los Angeles Rams Shut Out Cardinals on the Backs of Secondary, Jojo Natson
No Fly Zone
The Rams secondary should be nicknamed ‘The Legion of No Room’ as in, no room for the quarterback to complete a pass. It was a nightmare day for Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford who finished the game going 17-27 for only 90 yards. That poor stat line was largely in part due to the great play by the Rams secondary unit. Aqib Talib, Sam Shields, John Johnson III, and Marcus Peters were all over the field making plays on the ball breaking up passes.
Of course, every good secondary has to thank their front-seven for making their jobs a little easier and the Rams defensive front did just that. Linebackers Cory Littleton and Ramik Wilson were both aggressively playing downhill, stopping the run game for short gains and forcing the Cardinals into third and long situations. Defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald wreaked havoc up the middle forcing the Cardinals offensive line into committing five penalties creating even tougher scenarios for the offense.
The Rams held the Cardinals to 3-12 on third downs thanks to aggressive playcalling by Wade Phillips. The defensive coordinator dialed up the blitz packages on third and longs, forcing Bradford to make decisions before he wanted to. That pressure allowed the Rams corners to play tighter to the receivers and sit on the short and immediate routes. Talib had a couple pass deflections and Shields came away with an interception late in the fourth quarter after jumping a short pass intended for Chad Williams.
The Los Angeles secondary held the Arizona offense to just five first downs and 3.0 yards per pass attempt. Steve Wilks’ offense did not cross the 50-yard line until the final minute of the fourth quarter.
Right Off the Street
Return specialist Pharoh Cooper missed Sunday’s game due to an injury which forced the Rams to make a call to a free agent during the week. That free agent was Natson, a member of the Rams roster during the preseason but cut on the August 31st deadline. Natson, who stands at only 5’7″ 153 pounds, took full advantage of his opportunity to start as the team’s returner Sunday.
Natson showed his explosiveness on the opening kickoff, returning it back for 22 yards and making a couple nice moves. He finished the game with six punt returns for 133 yards, including a long of 60 yards on this return.
GO JOJO, GO!
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 16, 2018
Natson’s returns gave the Rams offense great field position on nearly every drive. Through the entire game, Jared Goff and the offense never started within their own 20-yard line. In fact, the Rams started past their own 40-yard line for all but four of their offensive possessions, making things a cakewalk for Todd Gurley and the crew to drive down the field.